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December 23 - Morning

"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands...
To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again...
To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword...
To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze."
- Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18

Jesus Introduces Himself to the Seven Churches

In the next two chapters (chapter two and three) Jesus dictates seven letters to seven churches in Asia which John oversaw. The seven churches are: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Jesus addresses his letter to the "angel," or aggelos in the Greek, which means "messenger." Aggelos is used to refer to angelic beings who serve as messengers for God, but here in Revelation it would appear that these letters are being addressed to God's "messenger" in the church which would be the pastor or an overseeing elder (Men who are referred to as "messengers" with the Greek word aggelos are found in Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52). This is probably not Jesus giving John a message to write on a scroll that is to be handed to an angelic being. It makes more sense to interpret aggelos as the man who speaks to the church who is to receive a scroll from John the Apostle who received the message from the Lord.

Jesus identifies himself at the beginning of each letter to the seven individual churches with a unique reference to himself, his character, his responsibility or his role as the head of the church.

To Ephesus Jesus is the one who holds the seven stars, or the seven pastors in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands, or the seven churches. This is an image of Jesus in his heavenly temple serving as the high priest attending the churches who are his representatives in Asia. Jesus says that he "holds," or kraton, which means "to hold authoritatively" the pastors of the churches.

To Smyrna Jesus is the "First and the Last, who died and came to life again." Jesus' reference to himself being the "First and the Last" is a direct OT reference to the eternal God who has eternally existed and will continue to exist eternally. Yet, in this eternal state the eternal God entered creation and died as a man on the cross, but returned to life. Jesus eternally existed before all things outside of time, space and matter, but he entered creation as a man and suffered the worst fate only to conqueror death itself and be raised back to life.

To Pergamum Jesus is speaking as the one "who has the sharp, double-edged sword." In the Greek there are articles in front of the words "sword," "two-mouthed (or, "two-edged") and "sharp." So, the Greek literally says, "These things says the one having THE sword THE two-edged THE sharp." The articles add emphasis to the fact that even for those who are living under the authority of the Roman empire, Jesus is the one who has The Sword, The Sharp Sword, The Double-Edged Sword, which means no one else has The Sword! Jesus does not also have a sword, he has The Only Sword! The word for "sword" is rhomphaia which is the long spear like sword used fro piercing and cutting, and not the machaira, which a dagger like sword less than 16 inches long. When Jesus returns in Revelation 19:15, 21 he has the rhomphaia with him.

To Thyatira Jesus is "the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze." Eyes, fire and bronze are all symbols of judgment in the Old Testament and in other places. This time the judgment comes from the glorious eternal Son of God whose own eyes, or what he sees, brings the fire and whose own glorious feet of glowing metallic judgment will trample his opposition in his glorious march of resurrection victory.
'Chen (Hb) - Rest (Eng) - chen is the Hebrew word for "favor" or "grace." This word can refer to physical chen meaning beauty (Pr. 31:30), or chen words which would be good and elegant words (Pr. 22:11). It is important to have chen (favor) and behavior that is chen (graceful, beautiful) is a great advantage to gaining chen. Proverbs tells us how to gain chen from God:

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win
favor (chen) and a good name
    in the sight of God and man...
He mocks proud mockers
    but gives
grace (chen) to the humble."
- Proverbs 3:3-4, 34
Do I realize the same Lord who loved me and died for me is also the righteous Judge who has eyes of fire and the sword of absolute truth and authority?
I will honor the Lord Jesus for what he has done for me, but I will also honor him as the absolute judge and the final authority concerning what is right and acceptable in my life and in the world.

Bible Reading Descriptions Here


Complete Text

General Text


Your godly influence
on others


Leading of the Holy Spirit
USA and Israel relationship

This tomb is located in the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem. It was constructed during Jesus’ lifetime. Today it is traditionally called the Pillar of Absalom or Absalom’s Monument. 
A model of Herod's tomb discovered on the side of the Herodion in a condition of having been destroyed by Jewish rebels between 66-70 AD.

Someone to Quote

"Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies." - Ambrose of Milan

Something to Ponder

In 1848 Andrew Comstock of Philadelphia tried to make Bible reading easier for American's by writing it with the perfect alphabet. For example: "Philadelphia" was "Filadelfia" and "Perfect Alphabet" was "purfekt alfabet"
(see Comstock's Alphabet here)
(see Comstock's Purfekt Alphabet Bible here)
In 1855 the Longley brothers of Cincinnati created a Bible with phonetically correct spelling.
(find it here)

Here’s a Fact

The disciples of Jesus held to their testimony that Jesus had risen from the grave even under the threat of death. Only John died a natural death, the rest were martyred. It is hard to believe these men willingly continued to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus if Jesus, their Messiah and Savior, was dead. Why would every one of them continue under persecution, torture and execution to proclaim that Jesus was alive, unless they had unquestionably seen the resurrected Lord?
1. Peter was crucified by Nero in Rome
2. James was decapitated by Herod Agrippa I in Jerusalem
3. Andrew was crucified in Patrae, Achaia in Greece on an X cross
4. Thomas was killed with a lance/spear by Hindus on Mt. Antenodur
5. Philip was crucified through his thighs and stoned. His tomb is in Hierapolis
6. Bartholomew crucified in Albana (Russia) or flayed with a whip in Armenia
7. Thaddaeus killed by arrows on Mt. Ararat.
8. James son of Alphaeus stoned by Jews for preaching
9. Simon Zealot sawn in two for preaching
10. Matthew pinned to the ground with short spears and beheaded or killed by a sword wound
11. Paul decapitated by Nero in Rome
12. James, brother of Jesus, pushed from the Temple Mount and clubbed to death by Jews
13. John the Apostle, died of old age after persecution and exile to the isle of Patmos for eighteen months by Domitian
14. Mark dragged by horses through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt until dead
15. Luke was hanged in Greece
16. Jude killed with arrows.
17. Matthias - stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem


"My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways, for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well."
- Proverbs 23:26-27

Coach’s Corner

A quarrel can be ended in one of two ways: 1) Say “I’m sorry,” 2) Forgive and forget.

Proverbs 31:30
New International Version (NIV)
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;     but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Proverbs 22:11
New International Version (NIV)
One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace     will have the king for a friend.
Acts 22
New International Version (NIV)
“Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”
When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.
Then Paul said:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.
My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’
11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’
19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
Paul the Roman Citizen
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
Paul Before the Sanhedrin
30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
Revelation 5
New International Version (NIV)
The Scroll and the Lamb
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll     and to open its seals, because you were slain,     and with your blood you purchased for God     persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,     and they will reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,     to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength     and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb     be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Hebrews 11-12
New International Version (NIV)
Faith in Action
11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God Disciplines His Children
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,     and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,     and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Warning and Encouragement
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

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